N.Y. to Bump Fast Food Workers to $15/Hour Wage

The super-sized pay raise — about 70 percent for some workers — will come with some costs. Here’s why.

New York’s fast-food workers are getting a hefty raise.

According to The New York Times, the New York Wage Board approved a measure increasing fast-food workers’ minimum hourly pay to $15 per hour. The pay bump, which needs to be approved by the state’s acting commissioner of labor, will be phased in by increments in New York City by the end of 2018 and the rest of the state by mid-2021.

The new wage only affects chains that have more than 30 locations nationwide.

New York’s current minimum wage is $8.75, so the recently approved bump in pay represents a 70 percent increase for many fast-food workers, the Times said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Times that he’s hopeful that other states will follow New York’s lead:

“When New York acts, the rest of the states follow,” said Cuomo, a Democrat, citing the state’s passage of the law making same-sex marriage legal. “We’ve always been different, always been first, always been the most progressive.”

According to Fortune, the fast-food workers’ pay bump could have mixed economic effects. Here are a few potential impacts:

  • Job losses? It’s possible. “Standard economic theory says that when you raise the price of something, you will get less of it,” Fortune explained. “Logically this should hold for employment, too.” But economists can’t seem to agree on what those potential job losses look like. Fortune said big minimum wage hikes, like Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum for all Seattle employees and Los Angeles’ $15 minimum wage hike, “are likely to lead to greater job losses than more measured increases,” Fortune said.
  • Worker earnings: Obviously, the economic benefits to fast-food workers whose wages increase to $15 an hour (from about $9), are huge. A full-time fast-food worker could see his income go up by $12,000 or more per year. Wow.
  • Super-sized fast food prices: It’s likely that a big bump in minimum wage pay for fast-food workers will lead to higher prices for consumers’ burgers and fries. Manhattan Institute economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth told Fortune that she predicts a 22 percent increase in food prices at New York fast-food restaurants as a result of the pay bump. “Employers will likely try to defray these price increases by cutting back on staff and relying on more machines,” Fortune said.
  • Trickle down pay bumps: While the minimum wage hikes in Seattle and Los Angeles impact all low-wage workers, New York is unique in that this pay raise is specifically for fast-food workers. But advocates of an increased minimum wage claim that other low-income workers in New York, including many retail workers, will push for higher wages now that fast-food workers are earning more money.

What do you think of the $15 minimum for New York’s fast food-workers? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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